Jungle Trek, Riding Elephants, Petting Tigers, etc..

Chiang Mai Travel Blog

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Wow where to start. It was definitely a much more active 3 days than I'm used it! We started on Monday, Mar 15th, stopped at a really beautiful waterfall for a quick dip and photo op. I still wasn't feeling very well, so I passed on that. After that we took a short drive to some Hot Springs – which is crazy since its at least 35 degrees out – but a few people jumped in for a bit! After that is when the hike started. It was only just over an hour, but it was very very steep uphill, and my cardio clearly needs some work! But I survived, somehow, and we made it to the Karen tribe village. Basically these different tribes live in the jungle, and survive almost solely on vegetables and livestock they grow. The jungles are in Thailand, but most of these people have immigrated decades ago, and speak their own languages, named after their tribe – so the Karen tribe speaks Karen. Once we got there we looked around their village – this one has about 40 people living there, but you'd ever know it based on the size and number of buildings. Bamboo is used for almost everything in these tribes – you eat it, make rafts out of it, make homes out of it, make dishes out of it, even the floorboards in the buildings were made out of it – and apparently it grows really fast, so its pretty convenient that it has so many uses! The room we all slept (yep, all 20 of us), was complete with 2 inch thick mattresses for each of us, and one mosquito net to 2 beds. Pretty fancy. We ate dinner, then spent the rest of the evening around the fire, telling ghost stories and funny stories, then, because we were keeping everyone up, we went to bed around 9.

The next morning, we got up for an early breakfast, then started on our next leg of the hike, Another hour and a half, and we stopped at another small village to get some beverages and take a bit of a break. We kept going for about another hour or so, then arrived at a Lahoo village and Karen village side by side. We had lunch here and relaxed for a bit, and from here is where we rode the elephants down the river. I was really skeptical at first, but our Tour leaders assured us that there are some company's that are certified as treating animals fairly, and this was one of them, so I felt a bit better about. We hopped on the elephant – Aly and I named ours Dumbo, but then decided Elly was more fitting – and rode the elephant for about 45 min. It was a very different experience. We had these little seats that are secured to the elephants back, and sat in those. Aly tried sitting on Elly's neck for part of the ride, but I didn't really want to try that! Since there were only 5 elephants, and 20 in our group, we switched halfway, and we got on the bamboo rafts and floated the rest of the way to the Lahoo village where we were staying the night. The accommodations were basically the same thing,but the village was much bigger. It also seemed more welcoming than the first Karen tribe we went to, so that was nice. We had another fire that we all hung out around for a bit, then had dinner. One of the Lahoo guys played the guitar and knew a lot of western songs, so there was a bit of a sing a long for a lot of the night. I wasn't feeling well still, so once the moonshine, or "Happy Water" came out, I snuck off to bed – though I heard the Sing-a-long fest go late into the night!

This morning we slept in a bit, then ate breakfast, packed our stuff, and when the Lahoo's were finished making our bamboo rafts, we floated 3 hours down to civilization. We were picked up by tuk tuks and drove for a couple of hours to the Tiger Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, It was awesome! Pretty pricey in comparison to everything else out here, but very inexpensive by Canadian standards. We paid about $22 each to go in the small tiger's cage Ours were 6 months old – though there was the option of newborns, 8 months, 1 year, and full grown. The price also included a photographer to go with Aly and I and a CD of the pictures he took! Either way, it was definitely worth the money to me!! They were so so cute! The two tigers we saw were sisters, and they were really sweet. We were really scared at first because we expected the 6 month old tigers to be really small and these two were not! After a couple minutes though, you see that they're pretty gentle as long as you follow guidelines – approach them from behind, place your hand firmly on their pack so they know your there, and do NOT touch their heads, because they'll think you're trying to play with them. The sign also said not to touch their paws, but we had two of the trainers in the cage with us and they assured us it was okay with these two. What an awesome experience! They were so cute! We stopped by the newborn cage where a few people from our group were cuddling with the baby ones, they were ridiculously adorable – we were temped to pay again to go in their cage, but we didn't. After the Tiger Sanctuary, we came back to the guesthouse and I had the longest, best shower ever. We all wanted a low key night, so we were going to see Alice in Wonderland in 3D at the theatre at the nice mall, but we got the times wrong, and showed up at 7:30, when the next show wasn't til 9:50. But as it turned out, Wednesdays is their cheap movie night, so the late show was sold out anyway. We browsed around the mall a little more, ate dinner, and came back to the guesthouse. I am definitely ready for a nice, long, comfy sleep tonight! Missing everyone back home!

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Chiang Mai
photo by: Stevie_Wes